09/26/2007 1:02AM

Mother of All Weekends


If you start mapping out all of this weekend's stakes races and Breeders' Cup preps now, and don't do much sleeping the rest of the week, you just might be tied on by Saturday. There are 49 stakes races across the country that day, 23 of them worth $100,000 or more, including three Grade 1's: The Flower Bowl at Belmont and the Goodwood and Yellow Ribbon at Oak Tree. Sunday's slate is shorter but at least as crucial, with five Grade 1 events: the Jockey Cluib Gold Cup, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Beldame and Vosburgh at Belmont, and the Norfolk at Oak Tree.

There are races leading to all eight -- oops, make that 11 -- Breeders' Cup races at Monmouth Oct. 26-27, but the two marquee showdowns this weekend involve four of the five current favorites for the Classic (the fifth is Any Given Saturday, who won the Brooklyn last Saturday): Street Sense vs. Hard Spun in the Kentucky Cup Classic Saturday, and Lawyer Ron vs. Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Sunday.

As Marty McGee points out in Thursday's DRF, the rematch between the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby may well be misleading. In European antepost betting, Street Sense is 5-1 for the Classic with Hard Spun between 15-1 and 20-1, but the two are likely to be very close together in the Kentucky Cup betting because almost everything about the prep favors Hard Spun -- the shorter distance, the Polytrack surface, and a probable small field otherwise devoid of other top-class early speed. Add in trainer Carl Nafzger's repeated history of having Street Sense less than fully cranked up for these preps (his Breeders' Futurity before the Juvenile last fall, his Blue Grass before the Derby, his Jim Dandy before the Travers), and it's not crazy to say that Hard Spun should be the favorite Saturday -- and that even if he beats Street Sense, he should still be twice his price in the Classic.

If Hard Spun does not win Saturday, it's difficult to see why he would even run in the Classic. Unless he turns into a new horse in the next five weeks, Hard Spun has done nothing to suggest he can beat the nation's top horses going 10 furlongs, having been passed by Street Sense in the Derby, Street Sense and Curlin in the Preakness, and Any Given Saturday in the Haskell. He seems much better suited to the new BC Dirt Mile (being run at a mile and 70 yards this year) or even the BC Sprint, but with a Grade 1 sprinting win already under his girth, his handlers seem determined to go long again.

Lawyer Ron, the 3-1 favorite in Classic futures, will be heavily favored in the Gold Cup, not only because of his two smahing triumphs at Saratoga in the Whitney and Woodward but also because Curlin has been idle since the Haskell Aug. 8, a race in which he was almost alarmingly flat with no apparent excuse. While there are minor concerns about whether Lawyer Ron will be as effective at 10 furlongs at Belmont as he was in his two nine-furlong blowouts at Saratoga, there's a larger concern as to whether Curlin is the same colt he was this spring.

All six graded stakes at Belmont this weekend appear to have a standout favorite: Flower Bowl (Wait a While), Kelso (After Market), Gold Cup (Lawyer Ron), Turf Classic (English Channel), Beldame (Ginger Punch) and Vosburgh (Discreet Cat).

--I'm trying not to dwell on the mess I made of Sunday's Belmont couble-carryover, but since commenters yuwipi and wpb asked, here was how I A-B-C'ed the sequence (winners in bold):

Race 5---A:1 B:5,10 C:3,8
Race 6---A:6,10 B:1 C:2,9
Race 7---A:8,11 B:2,6,9 C:3,5
Race 8---A:1 B:4,5
Race 9---A:7 B:1 C:2
Race 10--A: 1,11 B:3 C:4,5

It happens: The dreaded 4A-1B-1C result, when you need either 4 A's and 2 B's or five A's and one C. Once Dressed to Win lost the opener, my C's were dead, and as noted earlier, I somehow managed to omit third choice Giveityourbest shot (#3 in race 7) from my array of five A's and B's in that race.

--Reminder: If you want to play the Belmont SHOWdown, the popular 20-day show-parlay contest with a $10 entry fee, it starts Wednesday and you have to be signed up by 12:30 p.m. Be prepared to fork over your sawbuck by e-check; credit cards are no longer accepted, as one player learned when he got the following response from NYRA:

"In the past we used credit card funding, which was a much easier
process. Unfortunately a law was passed which states that credit cards
can no longer be used to fund a gambling related item. That is why the
poker websites can no longer accept credit cards either.

We wish you all the best in our contest which begins on Wednesday,
September 26th. Daily selection must be in by 12:45 pm.


The good news, perhaps, is that if you can use an e-check to pay for the ShowDOWN, perhaps the day is not far off when the same option will be available to NYRA Rewards account-holders, who currently get a "Funding options are coming soon!" message if they try to put money into their betting accounts electronically.

As a "vendor or supplier" of NYRA, I'm not eligible to play in the SHOWdown. But let's see how long I can last on a mythical basis, with one unnecessary hurdle to keep it a little more interesting: No morning-line favorites allowed. Our Day 1 selection to run 3rd or better: Altesse, the 2-1 second choice in race 3. She's not as good as favored Pool Land on her best day, but Pool Land is no cinch, having been sidelined since finishing 9th in the BC Distaff last November, and Altesse looks best of the rest.

Mike D More than 1 year ago
Fifty Belmont ShowDOWN entries found a way to die on Day 1, despite the gift of a 4-horse race (in which the rank outsider was off-the-board.) No gimmies on Day 2 Thursday though Ice Cool Kitty (race 8) is a DRF consensus best bet, a BRIS Power Picks 3-star near-lock-ola, and likely the one who'll be clicked on most. The opposition comes up a little dangerous.I prefer Howdyamisssthisone (race 9), who must escape the AE list. So, using the Crist Rule of no morningline favorites, whodoyalike?
PP More than 1 year ago
Tiago would need a lightning face pace to close into at Monmouth. There may be a few others that might get first run on him when they turn for home...his lack of tactical speed, which is of tremendous importance at Monmouth, is a danger play...
Pritchard More than 1 year ago
All serious horse players,should try this"Showdown" exercise.Trying to get a horse to run at least 3rd is alot harder than it appears.When I go OFF track, and can't pick my own "mother out of a room full of baboons" I will take $200.00 and make show bets until I'am sharpe again, Anyone can put $2.00 on a horse for ANY rhyme or reason,but when you play with larger amounts of money ,you simply do a better job of handicapping.At every racetrack in this country ,there is only ONE handicapper. and that's the racing secretary. The rest of us are "horse-pickers"
Hammer More than 1 year ago
Can you explain the A-B-C's of your pick 6 for us novice handicappers? How do the C's figure into the equation?
OffTrackBloodbath More than 1 year ago
Steve, I found the final chapter in Exotic betting to be very entertaining. I'm hoping that you can chronicle your day at the Cup this year in the same fashion.(albeit more brief given the space here)
aparagon4u More than 1 year ago
Altesse is my showdown selection today as well. If Pool Land runs out, which is unlikely, it could elimate 25-50% of the players. I learned my lesson in past years not to select the most obvious horse, I was burnt one too many times by that. On Dan's blog I ran through the BC Classic contenders and I mentioned Tiago as a longshot possibility. What is your opinion of Tiago's Classic chances? Also do you see another major upset ala Cat Thief or Volponi this year? It just seems like all the top contenders have one or two knocks against them. Lenny
Mike D More than 1 year ago
**** Our Day 1 selection to run 3rd or better: Altesse, the 2-1 second choice in race 3. She's not as good as favored Pool Land on her best day, but Pool Land is no cinch, having been sidelined since finishing 9th in the BC Distaff last November, and Altesse looks best of the rest.********* I notice the DRF's consensus best bet--normally a safe-ish pick to hit the board in a contest like ShowDOWN--is Favorite Sweep in race 1, a $10 claimer in which anything can happen. Sweep could take down a lot of ShowDOWN players today, as can Pool Land, and Who What When, the 5-2 ML favorite in the six-horse Sherpa (Race 8). Fasten your seatbelts ...
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Does Shug ever saddle a horse that's not a complete underlay anymore? On Saturday, Parading was a very bad sixth as the 2-to-1 favorite in race eight, and Sightseeing was last as the 5.8-to-1 second choice in the Brooklyn (though heavily favored in the exacta pools to finish second). Incredibly enough, he has a lifetime positive ROI in claiming races.
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
The slower pace of grass racing would get Curlin into the race sooner, and that husky late kick could mean Green Monster.
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
I have been waiting for the SHOWdown, I love it! Do you know why there was no Saratoga SHOWdown. I e-mailed NYRA in the spring and, of course, received no reply! Thanks I like Altesse, too. It concerns me that Pool Land has not returned earlier in the year to be ready for the BC; one start and on to the Distaff? That worries me. How long until 75% of the field is gone in the SHOWdown, 3 or 4 days?